Crime

Federal Prosecutors Charge Man With Hiring Hackers To Sabotage Former Employer (apnews.com) 18

According to the Associated Press, federal prosecutors have charged a man with paying computer hackers to sabotage websites affiliated with his former employer. From the report: The FBI says the case represents a growing form of cybercrime in which professional hackers are paid to inflict damage on individuals, businesses and others who rely on digital devices connected to the web. Prosecutors say 46-year-old John Kelsey Gammell hired hackers to bring down Washburn Computer Group in Monticello, but also made monthly payments between July 2015 and September 2016 to damage web networks connected to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, Hennepin County and several banks. The Star Tribune reports Gammell's attorney, Rachel Paulose, has argued her client didn't personally attack Washburn. Paulose has asked a federal magistrate to throw out evidence the FBI obtained from an unnamed researcher because that data could have been obtained by hacking.
Bitcoin

Nearly a Third of Millennials Say They'd Rather Own Bitcoin Than Stocks (bloomberg.com) 312

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A survey by venture capital firm Blockchain Capital found that about 30 percent of those in the 18-to-34 age range would rather own $1,000 worth of Bitcoin than $1,000 of government bonds or stocks. The study of more than 2,000 people found that 42 percent of millennials are at least somewhat familiar with bitcoin, compared with 15 percent among those ages 65 and up. Bitcoin rose more than 6 percent Wednesday to as much as $7,545, helping to push the value of the total cryptocurrency market above $200 billion for the first time, according to CoinMarketcap. The digital asset has soared more than 600 percent this year, compared with gains of 15 percent for the S&P 500 Index -- which might explain millennials' attraction.
The Internet

Nearly Half of Colorado Counties Have Rejected a Comcast-Backed Law Restricting City-Run Internet (vice.com) 128

bumblebaetuna shares a report from Motherboard: In Tuesday's Coordinated Election, two Colorado counties voted on ballot measures to exempt themselves from a state law prohibiting city-run internet services. Both Eagle County and Boulder County voters approved the measures, bringing the total number of Colorado counties that have rejected the state law to 31 -- nearly half of the state's 64 counties. Senate Bill 152 -- which was lobbied for by Big Telecom -- became law in Colorado in 2005, and prohibits municipalities in the state from providing city-run broadband services.

Some cities prefer to build their own broadband network, which delivers internet like a utility to residents, and is maintained through subscription costs. But ever since SB 152 was enacted, Colorado communities have to first bring forward a ballot measure asking voters to exempt the area from the state law before they can even consider starting a municipal broadband service. So that's what many of them have done. In addition to the 31 counties that have voted to overrule the state restrictions, dozens of municipalities in the state have also passed similar ballot measures. Including cities, towns, and counties, more than 100 communities in Colorado have pushed back against the 12-year-old prohibition, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

AT&T

Justice Department Tells Time Warner It Must Sell CNN Or DirecTV To Approve Its AT&T Merger (nytimes.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The Justice Department has called on AT&T and Time Warner to sell Turner Broadcasting, the group of cable channels that includes CNN, as a potential requirement for approving the companies' pending $85.4 billion deal, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday. The other potential way the merger could win approval would be for AT&T to sell its DirecTV division, two of these people added. As originally envisioned, combining AT&T and Time Warner would yield a giant company offering wireless and broadband internet service, DirecTV, the Warner Brothers movie studio and cable channels like HBO and CNN. If the Justice Department formally makes either demand a requisite for approval, AT&T and Time Warner would almost certainly take the matter to court to challenge the government's legal basis for blocking their deal.
The Almighty Buck

The Inside Story of Venture Capital's Messiest Breakup (wired.com) 20

mirandakatz writes: The Xfund started with a bold idea and ended with one of its founders banished from the country. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel has the definitive story of what really happened after Patrick Chung and Hugo Van Vuuren went into business together, and how a promising venture went so wrong. It's an incredibly complex story, and no one agrees on the basic facts: As Hempel writes, 'What's clear is that from the start, they had clashing visions for what they were building. The tale of Van Vuuren and Chung's partnership and its demise offers a window into how power really works in Silicon Valley, where personal relationships are the most important currency and, in order to protect capital, investors are more likely to place their bets on people they know and trust.'
China

China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home (nytimes.com) 103

Paul Mozur, reporting for the New York Times: China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion. As if to demonstrate the platform's effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). So much do China's government and companies value Facebook that the country is Facebook's biggest advertising market in Asia, even as it is the only major country in the region that blocks the social network. A look at the Facebook pages of China Central Television, the leading state-owned broadcast network better known as CCTV, and Xinhua, China's official news agency, reveals hundreds of English-language posts intended for an English-speaking audience. Each quarter China's government, through its state media agencies, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Facebook ads, according to a person with knowledge of those deals, who was unauthorized to talk publicly about the company's revenue streams. China's propaganda efforts are in the spotlight with President Trump visiting the country and American lawmakers investigating foreign powers's use of technology to sway voters in the United States.
Bitcoin

2x Called Off: Bitcoin Hard Fork Suspended for Lack of Consensus (coindesk.com) 50

Alyssa Hertig, writing for CoinDesk: The organizers of a controversial bitcoin scaling proposal are suspending an attempt to increase the block size by way of a software upgrade. Known for its strong early support from bitcoin startups and mining pools, the plan, called Segwit2x, or simply 2x, was to trigger a block size increase at block 494784, expected to occur on or around November 16th. The suspension was announced today in an email, written by Mike Belshe, CEO and co-founder of bitcoin wallet software provider BitGo. One of the leaders of the Segwit2x project, he argued that the scaling proposal is too controversial to move forward. He wrote: "Unfortunately, it is clear that we have not built sufficient consensus for a clean block size upgrade at this time. Continuing on the current path could divide the community and be a setback to Bitcoin's growth. This was never the goal of Segwit2x."
Google

Google Wants Google Doodles Taught In Public School, Warns Kids They Best Behave 146

theodp writes: Well, this year's Hour of Code is almost upon us, and if Google has its way, K-12 schoolchildren across the nation will be learning computer science by creating Google Doodles with Scratch (lesson plan). Curiously, the introductory video for the Create Your Own Google Logo Hour of Code activity from the Google Computer Science Education Department sternly warns kids, "While it is okay to use the Google logo for your personal Doodle, it is not okay [emphasis Google's] to use it anyplace else or outside this activity." In addition to respecting its intellectual property, Google instructs kids that they are to follow the Scratch Community Guidelines when they create Google logos: "Please stay positive, friendly, and supportive towards others in the Scratch Community. Help us keep Scratch a place where people of different backgrounds and interests feel welcome to hang out and create together."
AMD

Raja Koduri, AMD's Radeon Tech Group Leader, Resigns (anandtech.com) 38

Ryan Smith, writing for AnandTech: On the day following what's perhaps one of the greatest (and oddest) product design wins for AMD's Radeon Technologies Group, a second bit of surprising news is coming out of AMD. Raja Koduri, the Senior VP and Chief Architect of the group, who has been its leader since the RTG was formed two years ago, has announced that he is resigning from the company, effective tomorrow. Word of Raja's resignation originally broke via an internal memo penned by Raja and acquired by Hexus. And while AMD will not confirm the validity of the memo, the company is confirming that Raja has decided to leave the company.
Wikipedia

Nearly All of Wikipedia Is Written By Just 1 Percent of Its Editors (vice.com) 224

From a report on Motherboard: According to the results of a recent study that looked at the 250 million edits made on Wikipedia during its first ten years, only about 1 percent of Wikipedia's editors have generated 77 percent of the site's content. "Wikipedia is both an organization and a social movement," Sorin Matei, the director of the Purdue University Data Storytelling Network and lead author of the study, told me on the phone. "The assumption is that it's a creation of the crowd, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Wikipedia wouldn't have been possible without a dedicated leadership." At the time of writing, there are roughly 132,000 registered editors who have been active on Wikipedia in the last month (there are also an unknown number of unregistered Wikipedians who contribute to the site). So statistically speaking, only about 1,300 people are creating over three-quarters of the 600 new articles posted to Wikipedia every day.
Biotech

EPA Approves Release of Bacteria-Carrying Mosquitoes To 20 States (nature.com) 133

schwit1 writes: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of a common bacterium to kill wild mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika, Nature's news team has learned. On November 3rd, the agency told biotechnology start-up MosquitoMate that it could release the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis into the environment as a tool against the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Lab-reared mosquitoes will deliver the bacterium to wild mosquito populations. The decision -- which the EPA has not formally announced -- allows the company, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky, to release the bacteria-infected mosquitoes in 20 U.S. states and Washington DC.

MosquitoMate will rear the Wolbachia-infected A. albopictus mosquitoes in its laboratories, and then sort males from females. Then the laboratory males, which don't bite, will be released at treatment sites. When these males mate with wild females, which do not carry the same strain of Wolbachia, the resulting fertilized eggs don't hatch because the paternal chromosomes do not form properly. The company says that over time, as more of the Wolbachia-infected males are released and breed with the wild partners, the pest population of A. albopictus mosquitoes dwindles. Other insects, including other species of mosquito, are not harmed by the practice, says Stephen Dobson, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and founder of MosquitoMate.

Earth

New Technology Should Be Neither Feared Nor Trusted (bloomberg.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: How should we think about new and future technologies? The two main stances seem to be extreme optimism and extreme pessimism. A better approach would be careful planning and management. Optimists tend to overlook the fact that the technological successes of the past required a lot of social engineering before their benefits became widely shared. Countries like Maoist China and North Korea implemented perverse economic systems that withheld the bounty of modern technology from most of their citizens. And poor countries didn't really begin to beat poverty until decades after colonialism ended. Pessimists, meanwhile, often assume that new technologies can be stopped in their tracks by act of popular will. They probably can't. Even the most impoverished, repressive regimes of the 20th century adopted new technologies, and often suffered their worst consequences. Scientific research and invention, meanwhile, can be forbidden in one country or another, but probably not at the global level: Someone, somewhere, will study even the scariest ideas.

A better approach, then, is technology management. We should be as realistic as we can about each innovation's potential benefits and dangers. And instead of thinking about how to suppress new technologies, we should think about how to regulate them and channel them toward broad social benefit. Emerging technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are at our doorstep, and there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. But letting them develop haphazardly entails large risks. Instead, government and industry need to be funding proactive efforts to bring them into widespread, well-regulated use. In the end, technology is what we choose to make of it.

Earth

The US Is Now the Only Country In the World To Reject the Paris Climate Deal 718

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, Syria announced that it would sign the Paris climate agreement -- a landmark deal that commits almost 200 countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming. With Nicaragua also joining the deal last month, the United States is now the only country in the world that opposes it. In June, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, unless it is renegotiated to be "fair" to the United States. But other countries in the deal, such as France, Germany, and Italy, said that's not possible. The Trump administration is also taking steps to roll back regulations passed under former President Barack Obama to achieve the emissions reduction goals set under the Paris deal. The U.S. is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world after China. "With Syria's decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever," Paula Caballero, director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the Times. "The U.S.'s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change."
Open Source

Apache OpenOffice: We're OK With Not Being Super Cool (theregister.co.uk) 106

The Register's Thomas Claburn, interviews Jim Jagielski, Apache Software Foundation President and Apache OpenOffice project mentor. From the story: Despite being the subject of a deathwatch -- perhaps mainly by fans of rival LibreOffice -- AOO appears to be rather popular, with the 4.1.4 update racking up at least 1.6 million downloads. [...] While AOO and the ASF formulate a formal statement of direction for the project, Jagielski said more or less that all's well. "AOO is not, and isn't designed to be, the 'super coolest open source office suite with all the latest bells and whistles,'" Jagielski continued. "Our research shows that a 'basic,' functional office suite, which is streamlined with a 'simple' and uncluttered, uncomplicated UI, serves an incredible under-represented community. "Other office suites are focusing on the 'power user' which is a valuable market, for sure, but the real power and range for an open-source office suite alternative is the vast majority which is the 'rest of us. Sometimes we all forget how empowering open source is to the entire world."
AI

Andrew Ng Wants a New 'New Deal' To Combat Job Automation (technologyreview.com) 160

Andrew Ng, formerly the head of AI for Chinese search giant Baidu and, before that, creator of Google's deep-learning Brain project, knows as well as anyone that artificial intelligence is coming for plenty of jobs. Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Ng said he would like to see a "new New Deal" that pays people displaced by technology to study, offering an incentive to learn new skills and reenter the workforce. From a report: Speaking at MIT Technology Review's annual EmTech MIT conference in Cambridge, MA, on Tuesday, Ng said he's visited call centers and spoken to workers, knowing that his teams of software engineers will then write software that will automate aspects of their work. "There are many professions in the crosshairs of AI teams across the world," he said. Ng, who's currently working on a startup called Deeplearning.ai that helps train people on deep-learning technology, has some ideas for helping those in jobs he thinks will be automated, from call-center workers to radiologists, truck drivers, and the like. His suggestion is for an updated version of the New Deal -- the Depression-era economic programs that invested in, among other things, getting unemployed Americans back to work -- that pays displaced workers to learn new job skills.
The Almighty Buck

Someone 'Accidentally' Locked Away $300M Worth of Other People's Ethereum Funds (vice.com) 141

On Tuesday, a single user "permanently" locked down dozens of digital wallets containing nearly $300 million dollars worth of ether, the unit of exchange on the Ethereum platform, allegedly by accident. From a report: Now, some in the Ethereum community are considering the possibility of a risky network split, known as a "hard fork," to fix it. The affected wallets -- known as "multisignature" wallets because they require multiple people to sign off before funds are moved, making them popular with companies -- were all created with Parity, a popular program for digital wallets. Parity multisignature wallets experienced a bug in July that allowed a hacker to steal $32 million in funds before the Ethereum community scrambled to band together to hack back and secure the rest of the vulnerable ether.
News

The Crisis in Local News (axios.com) 118

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: The economic strains on local news have forced local outlets to close, shutter their print editions or consolidate into major holding groups, often headquartered in far-away cities. Why it matters: "As long as [cuts to local news] continues, the people in power will get away with murder," veteran NYC TV journalist Errol Louis told CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday. Most recently, billionaire Joe Ricketts' decision to shut down local city coverage site DNAInfo and Gothamist in response to employees voting to unionize has called into question how local news outlets can survive through conflicting business interests of ownership. The cuts are the latest of local coverage setbacks this month. The Houston Press has effectively closed down; The Baltimore City Paper, a 40-year-old publication, published its last issue November 1. Local media continues to have a complicated relationship with technology, because while technology can be blamed for upended news economics, local media companies still rely on it for traffic and resources.
Transportation

Uber Commits $5 Million To Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Prevention (gizmodo.com) 78

Uber announced on Sunday that it's taking new steps toward preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, starting with a $5 million donation to its partners -- Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, No More, Women of Color Network, Casa de Esperanza, A Call to Men, and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs -- along with an employee training program and in-app messaging to educate riders and drivers. Gizmodo reports: "As a result of this ongoing collaboration we have begun to make important changes internally and will commit to use Uber's scope and visibility to help drive awareness, education, and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence to millions globally," said Uber's announcement. Uber wrote on its blog that its technology "enhances safety for riders and drivers in ways that weren't possible before such as GPS tracking, the ability to share a trip with family and friends, and 24/7 support through the app." But the company has failed to adopt measures like more rigorous driver background checks, despite urging by lawmakers. The ride-sharing service left Austin altogether last year (along with Lyft) because it refused to fingerprint its drivers. Uber has argued that mandated fingerprinting is too burdensome. Advocates for fingerprinting argue that it helps ensure rider safety.
Earth

Florida Attempts the Largest Hydraulic Restoration Project In the World To Save the Everglades (vice.com) 98

New submitter ar2286 shares a report from Motherboard: Florida is defined by its water -- the water flowing around it, through it, increasingly over it. But throughout the twentieth century, its major arteries of fresh water, which flowed from the Kissimmee River south of Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and down to the swampy Everglades, were permanently rerouted by the federal government and landowners to stop flooding, and make room for agriculture and housing in the southern part of the state. Now the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers -- the government agency partly responsible for rerouting and draining water to begin with -- and the South Florida Water Management District to attempt the largest hydraulic restoration project in the world. And while some say the effort has turned Florida into a battleground, pitting sugar farmers against legislators and environmentalists, others are hoping this will finally right certain man-made wrongs and restore some balance to the state. If the government is able to fully fund the plan, and should dozens of contractors and state forces successfully carry it out, it could permanently change Florida. And set a precedent for inevitable restoration projects around the world, which are becoming increasingly crucial as climate change manifests in stronger storms and sea level rise. The state is embarking on such a massive restoration project because the aging levees and control gates surrounding Lake Okeechobee are at risk of failing during large storms and/or heavy rainfall. "The more rainwater that increases in Lake Okeechobee, the more pressure is on the lake, and that pressure can continue to build up and build up and build up and one day the levee can go," said Tammy Jackson-Moore, a Belle Glade resident who co-founded Guardians of the Glades, a nonprofit focused on community advocacy. "And we're talking about wiping out entire communities here." The rerouting has allowed for bursts of economic growth, but it does have its consequences. "The Everglades, the largest swath of subtropical wilderness in the country, is now half of its size circa 1920, and the ecosystem has deteriorated, losing wildlife and native flora," reports Motherboard. "Without a natural place to flow, stagnant water pushes toxic algae blooms into the rivers, and turns pristine ocean into sludgy waste."
Piracy

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub (torrentfreak.com) 165

Sci-Hub, a scientific research piracy site home to thousands of research papers, has suffered another blow in a U.S. federal court. According to TorrentFreak, "The American Chemical Society has won a default judgment of $4.8 million for alleged copyright infringement against the site. In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction which requires search engines and ISPs to block the platform." This comes after a $15 million fine was imposed on Sci-Hub by a New York federal judge earlier this year. From the report: Just before the weekend, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a final decision which is a clear win for ACS. The publisher was awarded the maximum statutory damages of $4.8 million for 32 infringing works, as well as a permanent injunction. The injunction is not limited to domain name registrars and hosting companies, but expands to search engines, ISPs and hosting companies too, who can be ordered to stop linking to or offering services to Sci-Hub. The injunction means that Internet providers, such as Comcast, can be requested to block users from accessing Sci-Hub. That's a big deal since pirate site blockades are not common in the United States. The same is true for search engine blocking of copyright-infringing sites.

"Ordered that any person or entity in active concert or participation with Defendant Sci-Hub and with notice of the injunction, including any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of ACS's trademarks or copyrighted works," the injunction reads.

Security

Should Private Companies Be Allowed To Hit Back At Hackers? (vice.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The former director of the NSA and the U.S. military's cybersecurity branch doesn't believe private companies should be allowed to hit back at hackers. "If it starts a war, you can't have companies starting a war. That's an inherently governmental responsibility, and plus the chances of a company getting it wrong are fairly high," Alexander said during a meeting with a small group of reporters on Monday. During a keynote he gave at a cybersecurity conference in Manhattan, Alexander hit back at defenders of the extremely common, although rarely discussed or acknowledged, practice of revenge hacking, or hack back. During his talk, Alexander said that no company, especially those attacked by nation state hackers, should ever be allowed to try to retaliate on its own.

Using the example of Sony, which was famously hacked by North Korea in late 2014, Alexander said that if Sony had gone after the hackers, it might have prompted them to throw artillery into South Korea once they saw someone attacking them back. "We can give Sony six guys from my old place there," he said, presumably referring to the NSA, "and they'd beat up North Korea like red-headed stepchild -- no pun intended." But that's not a good idea because it could escalate a conflict, and "that's an inherently governmental responsibility. So if Sony can't defend it, the government has to." Instead, Keith argued that the U.S. government should be able to not only hit back at hackers -- as it already does -- but should also have more powers and responsibilities when it comes to stopping hackers before they even get in. Private companies should share more data with the U.S. government to prevent breaches, ha said.

Patents

Apple Wins $120 Million From Samsung In Slide-To-Unlock Patent Battle (theverge.com) 72

Apple has finally claimed victory over Samsung to the count of $120 million. "The Supreme Court said today that it wouldn't hear an appeal of the patent infringement case, first decided in 2014, which has been bouncing through appeals courts in the years since," reports The Verge. From the report: The case revolved around Apple's famous slide-to-unlock patent and, among others, its less-famous quick links patent, which covered software that automatically turned information like a phone number into a tappable link. Samsung was found to have infringed both patents. The ruling was overturned almost two years later, and then reinstated once again less than a year after that. From there, Samsung appealed to the Supreme Court, which is where the case met its end today. Naturally, Samsung isn't pleased with the outcome. "Our argument was supported by many who believed that the Court should hear the case to reinstate fair standards that promote innovation and prevent abuse of the patent system," a Samsung representative said in a statement. The company also said the ruling would let Apple "unjustly profit" from an invalid patent.
Businesses

Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Apple's Secret Tax Bolthole (bbc.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The world's most profitable firm has a secretive new structure that would enable it to continue avoiding billions in taxes, the Paradise Papers show. They reveal how Apple sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven. It then moved the firm holding most of its untaxed offshore cash, now $252 billion, to the Channel Island of Jersey. Apple said the new structure had not lowered its taxes. It said it remained the world's largest taxpayer, paying about $35 billion in corporation tax over the past three years, that it had followed the law and its changes "did not reduce our tax payments in any country."

Leaked emails also make it clear that Apple wanted to keep the move secret. One email sent between senior partners at Appleby says: "For those of you who are not aware, Apple [officials] are extremely sensitive concerning publicity. They also expect the work that is being done for them only to be discussed amongst personnel who need to know." Apple chose Jersey, a UK Crown dependency that makes its own tax laws and which has a 0% corporate tax rate for foreign companies. Paradise Papers documents show Apple's two key Irish subsidiaries, Apple Operations International (AOI), believed to hold most of Apple's massive $252 billion overseas cash hoard, and Apple Sales International (ASI), were managed from Appleby's office in Jersey from the start of 2015 until early 2016. This would have enabled Apple to continue avoiding billions in tax around the world.
The report notes that Apple paid just $1.65 billion in taxes to foreign governments, despite making $44.7 billion outside the U.S. That's a tax rate of 3.7%, which is less than a sixth of the average rate of corporation tax in the world.
Firefox

Popular Firefox Bookmark Syncing Add-On Starts Losing... Bookmarks (bleepingcomputer.com) 67

A popular Firefox browser add-on that saves and syncs bookmarks has started to lose those bookmarks instead, users are complaining. From a report: According to user reports -- and your reporter's own experience -- the problems arose when Xmarks updated the add-on to version 4.5.0.4, the first version to work on the new WebExtensions API, Firefox's new add-on technology. Since then, Firefox users have reported a wide range of problems, but among which the biggest was the fact that Xmarks was not syncing bookmarks as it should. The problems did not manifest the same way for all users. Some users said the add-on stopped syncing new bookmarks altogether, some reported corrupted links, others said they lost all bookmarks, while other reported that only a small portion of new bookmark URLs was being added to their Xmarks account.
Youtube

'Something Is Wrong On the Internet' (medium.com) 365

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," writes James Bridle. From the article: To begin: Kid's YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I've been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That's it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them. [...] What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The New York Times, last week: Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app's more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes.
The Internet

Comcast's Xfinity Internet Service Is Down Across the US [Update] (theverge.com) 104

Readers share a report: Comcast's internet service, Xfinity, appears to be suffering an outage across the country. DownDetector.com shows it being down around the United States, including in large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. So far, online reports don't suggest that TV service or home phones are affected. On Twitter, Comcast confirmed the outage. Adding, "Some customers are having issues with their XFINITY Internet service. We apologize & appreciate your patience while we work to fix." The company tweeted moments ago, "Our teams continue to monitor an external network issue. We apologize for the inconvenience -- will provide updates as we learn more." In another tweet, Comcast said the issue is nationwide.

Update: At 20:39 GMT on Monday, Comcast said it had resolved the issue.
Businesses

Amazon Discounts Other Sellers' Products as Retail Competition Stiffens (reuters.com) 98

Amazon is slashing prices of products from third-party sellers on its website, moving beyond its more typical method of discounts on items it sells directly. From a report: The "discount provided by Amazon" applies to products including board games and technological gadgets offered by other merchants as the holiday season approaches. The retailer has been trying to compete aggressively on some items to win sales and draw customers away from low-priced rivals like Wal-Mart Stores. The move allows Amazon to sell the products at lower prices while still giving full price to the sellers. "When Amazon provides a discount, customers get the products they want at a price they'll love, and small businesses receive increased sales at their listed asking price," an Amazon spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, noting that businesses can opt out at any time.
Businesses

Qualcomm Set To Reject $130bn Bid From Broadcom (ft.com) 29

Tim Bradshaw, reporting for Financial Times: Chipmaker Broadcom officially unveiled a $130bn offer, including net debt, for Qualcomm on Monday, in what could be the largest tech deal in history. Under Broadcom's proposal, Qualcomm shareholders would receive $70 per share -- $60 in cash and $10 in shares of its rival. It would value Qualcomm's equity at roughly $103bn. Qualcomm is set to reject Broadcom's takeover offer (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available), as the US chipmaker views its rival's $130bn proposal as too low and fraught with regulatory risks, people familiar with the matter said. The offer represents a 28 per cent premium over Qualcomm's share price on November 2, after it first emerged that Broadcom was preparing an offer. Broadcom also said that its offer stands whether or not Qualcomm completes its $38bn acquisition of NXP, which has yet to close.
United States

The Disappearing American Grad Student (nytimes.com) 268

There are two very different pictures of the students roaming the hallways and labs at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. At the undergraduate level, 80 percent of the students are United States residents. But that number, The New York Times reports, falls below the 20 percent mark when you move to the graduate level (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). From the report: The Tandon School -- a consolidation of N.Y.U.'s science, technology, engineering and math programs on its Brooklyn campus -- is an extreme example of how scarce Americans are in graduate programs in STEM. Overall, these programs have the highest percentage of international students of any broad academic field. In the fall of 2015, about 55 percent of all graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering were from abroad, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board. In arts and humanities, the figure was about 16 percent; in business, a little more than 18 percent. The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master's programs last year were international students, according to an annual survey of American and Canadian universities by the Computing Research Association. In comparison, only about 9 percent of undergraduates in computer science were international students (perhaps, deans posit, because families are nervous about sending offspring who are barely adults across the ocean to study).
Earth

The US Has Destroyed A Critical Sea Ice-Measuring Satellite (scientificamerican.com) 283

"A key polar satellite used to measure the Arctic ice cap failed a few days ago, leaving the U.S. with only three others, and those have lived well beyond their shelf lives," writes long-time Slashdot reader edibobb. The Guardian reports that all three of the remaining satellites "are all beginning to drift out of their orbits over the poles" and will no longer be operational by 2023. This could put an end to nearly 40 years of uninterrupted data on polar ice, notes the original submission, adding "It seems like there would be a backup satellite, right?

"In fact, there was a backup satellite ready to go." The $58 million satellite was dismantled in 2016 when the Republican-controlled Congress cut its funding. (The Guardian reports that many scientists "say this decision was made for purely ideological reasons.") Now Nature reports: The U.S. military is developing another set of weather satellites...but the one carrying a microwave sensor will not launch before 2022. That means that when the current three aging satellites die, the United States will be without a reliable, long-term source of sea-ice data... For now, the the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center is preparing for those scenarios by incorporating data from Japan's AMSR2 microwave sensor into its sea-ice record. Another, more politically fraught option is to pull in data from the China Meteorological Administration's Fengyun satellite series... Since 2011 Congress has banned NASA scientists from working with Chinese scientists -- but not necessarily from using Chinese data. One final possibility is finding a way to launch the passive-microwave sensor that scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory salvaged from the dismantled DMSP satellite. The sensor currently sits at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, where researchers are trying to find a way to get it into orbit.
Government

'Panama Papers' Group Strikes Again with 'Paradise Papers' (theguardian.com) 402

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed tipped us off to a new document leak that's just revealed massive tax havens used by the world's most wealthy and powerful people. An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. The project has been called the Paradise Papers.
It's the same group responsible for the Panama Papers, and the Guardian reports that in these 13.4 million new files, journalists have discovered:
  • "Aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple."

"The publication of this investigation, for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, comes at a time of growing global income inequality," reports the Guardian. "Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore -- €600 billion in the last year alone -- the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week. "Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality," he said."


Businesses

Failure of Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Means a Missed Chance To Save $30B (kansascity.com) 127

UPDATE (11/5/17): Sprint and T-Mobile confirmed Saturday that they've ended their merger talks, saying they were "unable to find mutually agreeable terms." The Kansas City Star reports that the failure "means shareholders of the two companies gave up $30 billion or more in cost savings that their managements had expected a merger to generate.

"One combined wireless company would have needed to invest less in its network than the two competing companies spend separately... Absent a merger, Sprint now faces a highly competitive marketplace as the smallest national player and with a more aggressive rival in T-Mobile."

Several news outlets had already reported on Monday that Japan's conglomerate SoftBank, which owns Sprint, has pulled the plug on a proposed merger between the two carriers. From a report: SoftBank will reportedly propose ending merger talks with T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom as soon as Tuesday, October 31st. That's according to Nikkei, which says that SoftBank wants to end merger talks due to "a failure to agree on ownership of the combined entity." It's said that Deutsche Telekom insisted on a controlling stake of the combined T-Mobile-Sprint, and that some people at SoftBank were okay with that as long as SoftBank had some sort of influence. However, SoftBank's board recently decided that it wouldn't give up control, and today it decided that it wants to call off the merger talks.
Last Monday Sprint and T-Mobile shares both fell immediately following the media reports.
Encryption

Mozilla Might Distrust Dutch Government Certs Over 'False Keys' (bleepingcomputer.com) 112

Long-time Slashdot reader Artem Tashkinov quotes BleepingComputer: Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to remove support for a state-operated Dutch TLS/HTTPS provider after the Dutch government has voted a new law that grants local authorities the power to intercept Internet communications using "false keys". If the plan is approved, Firefox will not trust certificates issued by the Staat der Nederlanden (State of the Netherlands) Certificate Authority (CA)...

This new law gives Dutch authorities the powers to intercept and analyze Internet traffic. While other countries have similar laws, what makes this one special is that authorities will have authorization to carry out covert technical attacks to access encrypted traffic. Such covert technical capabilities include the use of "false keys," as mentioned in Article 45 1.b, a broad term that includes TLS certificates.

"Fears arise of mass Dutch Internet surveillance," reads a subhead on the article, citing a bug report which notes, among other things, the potential for man-in-the-middle attacks and the fact that the Netherlands hosts a major internet transit point.
Earth

Hole In The Ozone Layer Smallest In 29 Years (weather.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes the Weather Channel: The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is the smallest it's been since 1988, NASA said. According to a press release, the hole in the Earth's ozone layer is 1.3 million square miles smaller than last year and 3.3 million square miles smaller than 2015... This year, the hole grew to 7.6 million square miles. NASA and NOAA scientists said warmer temperatures and a stormier upper atmosphere helped keep damaging chemicals chlorine and bromine from eating ozone from the layer that protects the Earth's surface from harmful ultraviolet rays... The hole that hovers over Antarctica has been slowly recovering, scientists say, due to an international ban on harmful chemicals that were previously used in refrigerants and aerosols.

The hole was its largest in 2000 and measured 11.5 million square miles. Although recovery is underway, the size of the hole remains large compared to the 1980s, when the hole was first detected, NASA noted. And while there has been significant healing of the ozone layer in recent years, some scientists say full healing is a slow process and will not occur until sometime in the 22nd century, Yale Environment 360 reports. Others expect the Antarctic ozone hole to recover back to 1980 levels around 2070, NASA said.

The Media

New Victims in the 'Billionaire War on Journalism' (newsweek.com) 204

Newsweek offers a new reminder that internet journalism can vanish in a corporate shutdown or be "sued out of existence" -- so it certainly isn't permanent. Writers at the local New York City news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist -- as well as Gothamist's network of city-specific sister sites, such as LAist and DCist -- learned this chilling lesson on Thursday, when billionaire Joe Ricketts abruptly shut down the publications and fired their employees. The decision has been widely regarded as a form of retaliation in response to the newsroom's vote last week to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. Worse, for a full 20 hours after the news broke, Gothamist.com and DNAinfo.com effectively didn't exist: Any link to the sites showed only Ricketts's statement about his decision, which claims the business was not profitable enough to support the journalism...

The larger tragedy is a nationwide death of local news. Alt-weeklies are flailing as ad revenue dries up. The Village Voice, a legendary New York paper, published its final print issue in September. Houston Press just laid off its staff and ended its print edition this week. Countless stories won't be covered, because the journalistic institutions to tell them no longer exist. Who benefits from DNAinfo being shuttered? Billionaires. Shady landlords. Anyone DNAinfo reported critically on over the years. Who loses? Anyone who lives in the neighborhoods DNAinfo and Gothamist helped cover.

United States

Many US States Consider Abandoning Daylight Savings Time (newsweek.com) 366

An anonymous reader writes: A special Massachusetts commission recommends the state stop observing Daylight Savings TIme "if a majority of other northeast states, also possibly including New York, also do so." After a 9-to-1 vote, the head of the commission reported their conclusion after months of study: "There's no good reason why we're changing these clocks twice a year"... According to local reports, "The commission studied the pros and cons of the move and found, for example, retailers liked the idea of more daylight late in the day for shoppers... They also said there would be less crime, fewer traffic accidents and we would actually save energy."

A Maine state representative argues that it's actually harmful to observe Daylight Savings Time. "Some of those harms include an increased risk of stroke, more heart attacks, miscarriages for in vitro fertilization patients, among many other undesirable complications," reports Newsweek. Maine's legislature has already passed a bill approving an end to daylight savings time -- if Massachusetts and New Hampshire also end the practice, and if voters approve the change in a referendum.

At least six states are considering changing the time zones, according to Newsweek, and when it comes to Daylight Savings Time, the Maine representative told a reporter she had just one question.

"Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?"
The Media

Peter Thiel Could End Up Owning Gawker (pagesix.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes: Gawker's assets are now up for sale, and Page Six reports that they could be sold to a Hollywood movie studio which is "seriously interested" in adapting the site's stories into movies or TV shows -- and is also looking into filming the story of Gawker itself. Another interested buyer is described as a "group of hard-core Gawker fans" who are currently performing their own due diligence. But the bankruptcy manager for Gawker "has not ruled out the possibility" of selling the site to Peter Thiel. Also up for sale are "potential legal claims" Gawker may have against Peter Thiel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Courts

Appeals Court Rules: SCO v. IBM Case Can Continue (arstechnica.com) 131

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed quotes Ars Technica: A federal appeals court has now partially ruled in favor of the SCO Group, breathing new life into a lawsuit and a company (now bankrupt and nearly dead) that has been suing IBM for nearly 15 years.

Last year, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer had ruled against SCO (whose original name was Santa Cruz Operation) in two summary judgment orders, and the court refused to allow SCO to amend its initial complaint against IBM. SCO soon appealed. On Monday, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that SCO's claims of misappropriation could go forward while also upholding Judge Nuffer's other two orders.

Here's Slashdot's first story about the trial more than 14 years ago, and a nice timeline from 2012 of the next nine years of legal drama.
Firefox

Firefox Borrows From Tor Browser Again, Blocks Canvas Fingerprinting (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers have borrowed yet another feature from the Tor Browser and starting with version 58 Firefox will block attempts to fingerprint users using the HTML5 canvas element. The technique is widely used in the advertising industry to track users across sites. Firefox 58 is scheduled for release on January 16, 2018.

Canvas fingerprinting blocking is the second feature Mozilla engineers have borrowed from the Tor Project. Previously, Mozilla has added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users via system fonts. Mozilla's efforts to harden Firefox are part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to import more privacy-focused feature from the Tor Browser into Firefox.

Open Source

Software Freedom Law Center Launches Trademark War Against Software Freedom Conservancy (sfconservancy.org) 113

Long-time Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The Software Freedom Law Center, a Linux-Foundation supported organization, has asked USPTO to cancel the trademark of the name of the Software Freedom Conservancy, an organization that assists and represents Free Software / Open Source developers.

What makes this bizzare is that SFLC started SFC, SFLC was SFC's law firm and filed for the very same trademark on their behalf, and both organizations were funded by Linux Foundation at the start.

There are a few other wild things that have happened related to this. Eben Moglen, president of SFLC and for decades the General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation, is no longer associated with FSF. Linux Foundation has on its executive board a company that is being sued in Germany for violating the GPL, with the case presently under appeal, and the lawsuit is funded by SFC. And remember when Linux Foundation removed the community representative from its executive board, when Karen Sandler, executive director of SFC, said she'd run?

If you need a clue, the SFC are the good guys in this. There's a lot to look into.

Open Source

Audacity 2.2.0 Released 103

Popular open-source audio editing software, Audacity, has received a significant update. The new version, dubbed Audacity 2.2.0, adds a range of features and options such as additional user interface themes, and the ability to customize themes for advanced users. It is also getting playback support for MIDI files, and better organised menus, the team wrote. You can find the complete changelog here.
Security

Equifax Investigation Clears Execs Who Dumped Stock Before Hack Announcement (gizmodo.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Equifax discovered on July 29th that it had been hacked, losing the Social Security numbers and other personal information of 143 million Americans -- and then just a few days later, several of its executives sold stock worth a total of nearly $1.8 million. When the hack was publicly announced in September, Equifax's stock promptly tanked, which made the trades look very, very sketchy. At the time, Equifax claimed that its executives had no idea about the massive data breach when they sold their stock. Today, the credit reporting company released further details about its internal investigation that cleared all four executives of any wrongdoing.

The report, prepared by a board-appointed special committee, concludes that "none of the four executives had knowledge of the incident when their trades were made, that preclearance for the four trades was appropriately obtained, that each of the four trades at issue comported with Company policy, and that none of the four executives engaged in insider trading." The committee says it reviewed 55,000 documents to reach its conclusions, including emails and text messages, and conducted 62 in-person interviews. "The review was designed to pinpoint the date on which each of the four senior officers first learned of the security investigation that uncovered the breach and to determine whether any of those officers was informed of or otherwise learned of the security investigation before his trades were executed," the report states.

Security

TorMoil Vulnerability Leaks Real IP Address From Tor Browser Users; Security Update Released (bleepingcomputer.com) 21

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Tor Project has released a security update for the Tor Browser on Mac and Linux to fix a vulnerability that leaks users' real IP addresses. The vulnerability was spotted by Filippo Cavallarin, CEO of We Are Segment, an Italian company specialized in cyber-security and ethical hacking. Cavallarin privately reported the issue -- which he codenamed TorMoil -- to the Tor Project last week. Tor Project developers worked with the Firefox team (Tor Browser is based on the Firefox browser) to release a fix. Today, the Tor team released version 7.0.9 to address the vulnerability. Tor Browser 7.0.9 is only available for Mac and Linux users. Tor Browser on Windows is not affected.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Mining Heats Home For Free In Siberia (qz.com) 106

Quartz has published a video on YouTube about two entrepreneurs who have figured out how to heat their homes for free by mining bitcoin. The "miner" -- that is, the machine mining the bitcoins -- warms up liquid that is then transferred to the underfloor heating system. The cottage has two miners, which bring in about $430 per month from processing bitcoin transactions -- all while keeping the 20 square meter space warm.
Businesses

Broadcom Explores Buying Qualcomm (bloomberg.com) 69

phalse phace writes: Bloomberg news is reporting that Broadcom may be planning to make an offer to buy Qualcomm. From the report: "Broadcom Ltd. is considering a bid of more than $100 billion for Qualcomm Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest-ever takeover of a chipmaker. Broadcom is speaking to advisers about the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, the people said." If the deal goes through, Broadcom would become "the world's third largest chipmaker behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and give it a huge swath of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top ten providers of chips ranked by revenue in an industry that's consolidating rapidly."
Power

Republican Tax Plan Kills Electric Vehicle Credit (arstechnica.com) 481

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The nascent market for electric cars will suffer a big setback if the Republican tax plan released on Thursday enters into law. Among the changes to the current tax code would be an end to the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit. That's the tax incentive that currently means up to $7,500 back from the IRS when you purchase a new battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Since the start of 2010, the EV tax credit has been $2,500 for a plug-in vehicle with at least 5kWh battery capacity. Every extra kWh nets another $417 up to a maximum of $7,500, although you would need at least that amount in income tax liability -- the IRS won't cut you a check to make up the full amount. It was never meant to be permanent; once an automaker sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles (starting from January 1, 2010) its eligibility is phased out over a matter of months. But in the almost seven years since, no one has reached that limit yet. Tesla will almost certainly be first, with General Motors not far behind; between them, they've sold a lot of Model Ses and Chevrolet Volts. If this tax plan is enacted, it will surely mean pain for both companies, as well as anyone else hoping to sell a lot of EVs here in the U.S. The data is pretty clear -- tax incentives sell electric cars, and the market for EVs can dry up very fast when they're abolished, as Georgia's recent experience shows.
Businesses

Shoppers More Likely To Return Items Bought Online Than in Store (axios.com) 117

From a report: Almost a third of all online orders are returned compared to only 9% of purchases made in a brick-and-mortar store, according to Bloomberg. This is largely due to free shipping offered by most companies, which has also caused an increase of online purchases by almost three times those of physical stores. Why it matters: Returns can be costly for online companies -- anywhere from 20-65% of the cost of goods sold a UPS study found.
Google

Google Wins Ruling to Block Global Censorship Order (fortune.com) 89

A U.S. judge has partially blocked a recent decision by Canada's Supreme Court that requires Google to delete search results not just in Canada, but in every other country too. From a report: Citing the violation of American laws as well as a threat to speech, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila agreed to grant Google a temporary injunction, which means the company can show the search results in the United States. The search results in question are part of an intellectual property dispute between a Canadian industrial firm called Equustek and a rival company that is reportedly misusing Equustek's trademarks to poach its business. In response, Equustek obtained an injunction in Canada that treated Google as a defendant even though it had no direct relationship with either company. In a controversial decision in June, Canada's highest court agreed by a 7-2 margin to leave the injunction in place.
Australia

Australia Cockatoos Chew Billion-Dollar Broadband (bbc.com) 82

Australia's multimillion dollar broadband network is under attack -- from cockatoos. From a report: The National Broadband Network (NBN) company said it has spent tens of thousands of dollars so far fixing cables chewed by the birds. Australian broadband is already criticised for being slow. According to a recent report it ranks 50th in the world for internet speed. NBN estimates the bill will rise sharply as more damage is uncovered. In an attempt to improve Australia's internet speed -- currently lagging behind many developed countries at 11.1 megabits per second -- a national telecommunications infrastructure project has been instigated and is due for completion in 2021. But engineers returning to sites have found spare cables chewed and frayed. The culprits are cockatoos, a type of parrot which normally eats fruit, nuts, wood and bark.
Businesses

CNN Plans To Offer Subscriptions for Digital News Next Year (wsj.com) 60

Benjamin Mullin, writing for WSJ: After investing in digital verticals focused on business and politics and acquiring an online-video startup, CNN is gearing up for another big step: It plans to launch tiered subscription offerings for its digital news business (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source) as early as the second quarter of next year. A proposed premium offering will give subscribers access to special content on topic-specific verticals such as CNN Money and CNN Politics, built around network personalities. A second option will provide additional, though less specialized, content across all of CNN's sites. Pricing hasn't been finalized. The move is part of a broader five-year plan to develop new revenue streams and reach $1 billion in digital revenue by 2022. CNN's digital arm expects to pull in $370 million this year, according to a person familiar with its financials.

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